Dispute about Nord Stream 2: Moscow warns of obstacles

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron attend a signing of a new agreement on bilateral cooperation and integration known as Treaty of Aachen in Aachen Germany

The proposed changes would effectively extend existing rules to cover offshore pipelines.

Once the new regulations are finalized, experts say they will subject Russia's Gazprom to European Union regulations on the pipeline and will not allow it to be its sole operator. France's stance deprives Germany, which is seeking to veto the initiative, of needed support. "Work is continuing with our partners, in particular with Germany, on possible changes to the text", French foreign ministry spokeswoman Agnes von der Muhll said in a briefing.

The compromise reached on Friday, which is not legally binding until it is approved by the European Parliament, was backed by every member state except Bulgaria. The pipeline project has been welcomed by some countries in Europe, including Austria, but opposed by others.

According to reports in Germany, France will vote for stricter transparency rules for non-EU companies such as Russian oil and gas giant Gazprom, which could scupper the project.

Putting EU energy independence at risk?

The green-lit proposal suggests that the joint venture of Russia's Gazprom and five European companies should comply with four EU energy rules, including non-discriminatory tariffs and transparent reporting of gas shipments.

"I would find it irritating if [French] president [Emmanuel] Macron made common cause with Polish nationalists a few days after the friendship meeting in Aachen", Markus Pieper, a German MEP in chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU party, said after the French announcement. Many EU countries wanted to amend the legislation so that the construction of the pipeline from Russian Federation to Germany could be halted on additional requirements.

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Although Russia accounts for 30 percent of gas imports to Europe, natural gas makes up less than 10 percent of the bloc's overall energy mix. "The French-German compromise was adopted pretty much unanimously", one diplomat told AFP.

Leaving Germany the option whether or not to impose the European Union laws on Nord Stream 2 might mean that Gazprom keeps its full monopoly.

From across the Atlantic, Donald Trump's administration has been lobbying against the pipeline.

"Do we become dependent on Russian Federation because of this second gas pipeline?" The German outlet Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported, citing French government circles, that Paris fears more dependency on Russian Federation and "strategic problems" in the strained relationship between Brussels and Moscow.

German officials were keen Friday to downplay suggestions of a Franco-German rift, arguing that Paris and Berlin have a strong relationship that allows them to resolve differences.

Eastern European countries like Poland and Ukraine have vehemently objected to the project because they say it specifically bypasses their territories.

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